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Windows 8 Start Screen Customization for All Users

    Question

  • Short Versions:

      • How can I permanently remove (and prevent automatic re-installation of) some of the default Packaged Applications installed on Windows 8 Pro?
      • How can I save a customized tile arrangement?

    Long Version:  I'm configuring a semi-automated testing system using MDT2012 to install Windows 8 to multiple hardware configurations.  I would like to be able to remove all of the default applications except for the Desktop, and Internet Explorer.  I would like to add applications such as the Command Prompt, and Notepad.  Ideally, I would be able to group the tiles in various ways, capture the configuration, and push it to all of the automatically generated accounts so that we get a standard layout when testing with a User Account, a Guest Account, and/or an Administrator account.

    Windows 7 and Vista have both been working perfectly for over a year (with MDT2010), and I've managed to update them to work with MDT2012 without too much trouble.  I've gotten all of the custom configurations to work, through various means (some scripting, some unattended settings, some task sequence editing, some extensions for the MDT, etc.), however there is one remaining set of configurations that eludes me.  The Start Screen.

    So far, I have tried running a PowerShell script to perform the Remove-AppxProvisionedPackaged during the Audit-User phase, running sysprep /generalize, and capturing the system to a WIM (both with, and without the CopyProfile setting), and I'm able to get most of the user settings, the exceptions being the Start Screen, and the default view of the various folders.  I work around the latter by exporting/importing the Bags registry settings into the default user account; however the former has completely eluded me.  I have also tried configuring group policy settings; however those only work with the Enterprise edition (which isn't what our customers will be using, so changing the SKU isn't an option).

    Tuesday, September 11, 2012 3:54 PM

All replies

  • You can try using the CopyProfile setting. Haven't done it myself yet but would like to here how it goes.

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh825135.aspx


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    Wednesday, September 12, 2012 11:25 AM
  • Thank you for the link.  I’ve used other references; however none of them mentioned the FilterAdministrationToken registry key, so I tried using the CopyProfile setting again after setting the registry key.  Unfortunately, the CopyProfile setting keeps neither the Start Screen arrangement, nor the taskbar settings.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012 8:30 PM
  • <SoapBox>CopyProfile is an abomination (and always has been). It's well documented that what CopyProfile does is *not* documented and that it does not completely copy the profile. It's also against the spirit of automation of OSD. IMO, if you're clicking to configure something during any part of the OSD process including building the reference image, you're doing it wrong. OSD is about automating the process from start to finish.</Soapbox>

    Jason | http://blog.configmgrftw.com

    Thursday, September 13, 2012 12:26 AM
  • We also want to know how to adjust the start screen tiles via GPO for all users.  We'd like to get rid of all packaged apps (they don't launch when using applocker anyway).  I tried uninstalling them as administrator before sysprepping, but they all came back.  "uninstall" appears to do no such thing...
    Sunday, September 16, 2012 1:27 AM
  • I think everyone is coming to the same conclusion, I note that they're not there on the Windows Server 2012 start screen so whoever made that decision at Microsoft was obviously thinking along the same lines as us.  Is there a GPO for it?  I'm just in the process of going through all the new Windows 8/IE 10/Server 2012 GPO items.
    Monday, September 17, 2012 2:39 PM
  • I can't find a GPO that does it.

    You can use DISM to remove them from the WIM before you deploy it, there is a thread on here if you search for it.

    Also there are various GPOs that let you render them inert in a variety of ways.

    Also if you disable UAC on the domain, that appears to prevent them from being run, as UAC must be enabled.

    However none of those is a real solution, for example, user X walks in, has a Windows 8 Pro machine and wants it connected to the domain and you want their domain profile to not have the packaged apps in it - all you can do really is manually uninstall them.  Because you know what's going to happen if you leave them on there and they don't work: "Why don't they work?"  I want to be able to check sports scores and various other crap that pops up and wastes network bandwidth and has nothing to do with my job...

    "I would like to be able to remove all of the default applications except for the Desktop, and Internet Explorer.  I would like to add applications such as the Command Prompt, and Notepad."

    That's really the crux of it.  How do we do it?  (Other than manually or with a custom image).

    Monday, September 17, 2012 4:58 PM
  • I used the DISM commands outlined here http://www.verboon.info/index.php/2012/02/managing-windows-8-metro-style-apps-with-dism/ to remove all packaged apps on the system.

    I then created a brand new user and logged in as them - no apps!  w00t!  Only the Desktop, IE and Store icons appear on the start screen.  This does not remove the apps for existing user accounts.

    This also seems to cut down the (ridiculously long) amount of time it takes to create a new account upon first logon.

    Monday, September 17, 2012 9:32 PM
  • I've resorted to using a logon script that simply removes all the packaged apps using Remove-AppxPackage at initial logon.  Problem is that it comes up with a prompt asking the user to run it in unrestricted mode, I assume even if I sign it there will still be a prompt as even signed scripts need approval.

    Nice that we can remove them with DISM but Microsoft seems to intentionally have made it difficult to remove them from OEM clients you add to the domain.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012 2:26 PM
  • We are also looking to restrict/remove certain apps or tiles from the Server 2012 UI via GPO.  Can't seem to find anything remotely close to it, other than turning off access to the store!

    Andy Paterson, IT Advisor, University of Wales Institute Cardiff

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012 3:26 PM
  • There are no packaged apps in the Windows 2012 UI, this is what is annoying me, MS themselves have done what we are trying to do with Windows 8!
    Monday, October 01, 2012 4:15 PM
  • Check out the following link: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj134269.aspx

    The section "Copy the AppFolderLayout.Bin file to set default Start screen layout" is working great for me.  If you are using Win8 Pro (like me) you need to make sure the computer is joined to a domain before the AppFolderLayout.bin file will appear in the test profile.

    Friday, November 30, 2012 1:15 PM
  • Ben Hunter over on Deployment Guys blog has two articles that answer these questions pretty well:

    Remove Built-in Windows 8 Apps: http://blogs.technet.com/b/deploymentguys/archive/2012/10/26/removing-built-in-applications-from-windows-8.aspx

    I just included this as a PowerShell script (and customized to my organizations specific needs) and done.

    Start Screen customization: http://blogs.technet.com/b/deploymentguys/archive/2012/10/26/start-screen-customization-with-mdt.aspx

    I personally use option three on this.  We capture with MDT 2012 and then deploy through SCCM (with additional applications).  I did a complete deploy with SCCM, then customized the Start Screen, put the machine into Sysprep generalize, and grabbed the mentioned file.  Then, I just put it into a package I deliver in my Task Sequence in SCCM (but could easily do the same in MDT as an Application) and voila, customized Start Screen.  However, I know no way of doing this with GPO as you requested on a different resposne.


    David Coulter | http://DCtheGeek.blogspot.com | @DCtheGeek

    Friday, November 30, 2012 3:10 PM
    Answerer
  • Ben Hunter over on Deployment Guys blog has two articles that answer these questions pretty well:

    Remove Built-in Windows 8 Apps: http://blogs.technet.com/b/deploymentguys/archive/2012/10/26/removing-built-in-applications-from-windows-8.aspx


    That's exactly what I came up with.  Exactly.  But this works on MDT, my problem is having people walk in with Windows 8 Pro machines that are OEM, i.e. I cannot image them.  If you can image them the simplest method is to edit the WIM using DISM, but with an OEM machine that is joined to the domain you have to script that as a powershell script, which means you have to allow powershell scripts.  And you have to do it for each logged on user, not just per machine.  There's no GPO.  I can't understand why there is no GPO that works with the packaged apps.
    Friday, November 30, 2012 3:36 PM
  • Sorry then, I misunderstood.  Yeah, if they are OEM images, that makes it a little more difficult, but you could still do what Ben provided, but broken into two scripts and applied via GPO/GPP or deployed via something like SCCM:

    1.  Script to remove the default provisioned applications, basically the first component of Ben's script.

    2.  A script that uses the second part, but iterates through all users profiles on the workstation and uninstalls any of the AppX packages that you find.  Basically, using the second part of his script, but wrap it up some logic to find all existing users.

    You could even combine them if you wanted, there are advantages to both ways.  The end result would be the same though, connecting a Windows 8 system to your domain would then have this script run and remove the AppX components.  It's not as clean, but should get the job done.


    David Coulter | http://DCtheGeek.blogspot.com | @DCtheGeek

    Friday, November 30, 2012 3:53 PM
    Answerer
  • This is the solution that we had also come across and works for us to an extent.  For some reason, we need to copy the AppFolderLayout.Bin file and the appsFolder.itemdata-ms to get it to work somewhat consistently.

    Also, even though both files are in the default user profile, we also need to copy them in via GP login script to the individual local user profile which then only takes effect after the first reboot for that user account.  Strange behavior but it's the best workaround we could find.

    Tuesday, December 04, 2012 9:44 AM
  • What I would like to see as a part of modeling Windows 8 desktop and user profile settings, is:
    - Ability to change the lock screen to all users
    - Ability to remove many of default Apps/icons on the metro desktop to all users
    - Ability to design a custom theme and push it out to all machines as default theme and look of entire desktop

    Windows 8 default look does not suite enterprice needs very well for my quick opinion. 
    Wednesday, January 09, 2013 9:50 PM
  • - Change lock screen to all users:  This can be done now via Group Policy due to an update (see: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2787100/EN-US)

    - Remove many of default Apps/icons on metro desktop: This is best scripted as part of your Image build process, but I agree that more granularity in GPO would be nice over "Hiding" default AppX packages.

    - Design a custom theme and push it out to all machines:  This has been possible since Windows 7 / Server 2008 R2.  The below detail about the setting is from the Group Policy Settings Reference (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=25250), an invaluable file for anyone managing GPO:

    • File Name: ControlPanelDisplay.admx
    • Policy Setting Name: Load a specific theme
    • Scope: User
    • Policy Path: Control Panel\Personalization
    • Registry Information: HKCU\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Personalization!ThemeFile
    • Supported On: At least Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows 7
    • Help Text: Specifies which theme file is applied to the computer the first time a user logs on.If you enable this setting, the theme that you specify will be applied when a new user logs on for the first time.  This policy does not prevent the user from changing the theme or any of the theme elements such as the desktop background, color, sounds, or screen saver after the first logon. If you disable or do not configure this setting, the default theme will be applied at the first logon.

    David Coulter | http://DCtheGeek.blogspot.com | @DCtheGeek

    Thursday, January 10, 2013 6:45 AM
    Answerer
  • - Remove many of default Apps/icons on metro desktop: This is best scripted as part of your Image build process, but I agree that more granularity in GPO would be nice over "Hiding" default AppX packages.does not prevent the user from changing the theme or any of the theme elements such as the desktop background, color, sounds, or screen saver after the first logon. If you disable or do not configure this setting, the default theme will be applied at the first logon.

    I´m trying to avoid doing my own captured image, and attend to use original install.wim. Has anyone tested, could the Apps control be "integrated" in theme design? I mean, if I create new theme and delete some apps from desktop, then save it to a file share, point it via group policy - will the apps desapear?
    Thursday, January 10, 2013 9:26 AM
  • Just for a little clarification, the Theme is specifically for "look and feel" (think color, mouse, screensaver, etc), it doesn't control content that exists on the Desktop or in the Start Screen.

    If you need to remove the apps and you aren't capturing an image, then you could perform Ben Hunter's steps (link in an above post) during the base image install.  It would take more time, but the end result should be the same.

    As for "integrating" the apps into the Start Screen, you are still only able to do that with Ben Hunter's steps (link in above post) with CopyProfile (eww) or by copying AppsFolderLayout.bin from a machine that was "customized" first.  If you configure a machine, remove the Apps you don't want, clean up the Start Screen, and then capture this file, you could then "install" it during your standard deployment based on the original install.wim and you'd be set.  This is effectively what I do (although I do this step from OSD in SCCM)... I did have to create a correct Start Screen first and capture it so that I could then include it in my deployment steps. 


    David Coulter | http://DCtheGeek.blogspot.com | @DCtheGeek

    Thursday, January 10, 2013 5:02 PM
    Answerer
  • I removed all bing applications from install.win with DISM, for example:

    dism /image:D:\OSD\Images\Mount /Remove-ProvisionedAppxPackage /PackageName:Microsoft.BingFinance_1.2.0.135_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe

    Then I updated the image to DPs, and after that my deployment ends after WinPE, so none of applications or updates are starting to install. There is no any errors in task sequence logs.

    Friday, January 18, 2013 4:10 PM
  • I'm a system builder ouside the scope of domains, Group Policy, Enterprise editions of Windows etc.; most builds will be Windows 8 Single Language, i.e. not even Pro.

    Ideally, I'd want to get rid of all the "call home" new apps altogether.  I'd also want control over what tiles appear on the new Start Screen, including those that point to desktop applications, but SysPrep destroys these as it reasserts the bundled new apps.  I'm reading this thread for ways to fix this

    My own testing suggests the new UFH registry keys in HKCU may play a role here.  I created the following...

      - !Blee!.lnk in the "All Users" Start Menu\Programs
      - !Blah!.txt in the "All Users" Start Menu\Programs
      - !Bloo!.lnk in the user Start Menu\Programs

    I found the two .lnk files turned up as new tiles in the Start screen, whereas the .txt file did not appear.  I left these in Start screen but deleted from the two Start Menu\Programs

    Then I used Agent Ransack and Nirsoft Registry Scanner to search for these in file system and registry respectively.

    No files were found, but registry references were found in a new key under HKCU called "UFH".  This contained not just the current tiles from desktop shortcuts, but all that were ever inherited from when Start Menus were populated.

    Re-checking this later showed old material was lost and replaced with new, so it looks LIFO in nature.  Perhaps it holds positioning info that may help a poster who wanted that level of control?

    Wednesday, March 06, 2013 11:40 AM
  • if you are using Configuration Manager 2012 you might find this useful for customizing the start screen



    Step by Step Configuration Manager Guides > 2012 Guides | 2007 Guides | I'm on Twitter > ncbrady

    Friday, May 03, 2013 12:13 PM
    Moderator
  • As for scripting, I'm finding that I have to update this script constantly due to different version numbers of the Bing apps etc.  It's a real PITA.
    Tuesday, May 14, 2013 4:52 PM
  • As for scripting, I'm finding that I have to update this script constantly due to different version numbers of the Bing apps etc.  It's a real PITA.
    If you build your image from the original media (ISO or DVD, wherever you get install.wim), then you shouldn't have to change the script because the versions in the original media are always the same.  So long as you do it PRIOR to Windows Update steps.  If you point to an internal WSUS, you can do it afterwards, so long as your internal WSUS doesn't have the Metro Apps in it's database.  But try doing the "remove" before the Windows Update steps and it might solve you needing to keep changing your script.

    David Coulter | http://DCtheGeek.blogspot.com | @DCtheGeek

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013 5:10 PM
    Answerer
  • For the nth time, not using images, these are OEM machines that are being connected to the network, I don't have the option of imaging them.  So if there's a batch of Dell PCs and then a batch of HP laptops, they have different version numbers.

    I think it's absurd there's no GPO option to turn off packaged apps or have an approved list, etc.

    Thursday, May 23, 2013 3:26 PM